What do the CLP nominations mean?

by guest contributor Edmund Griffiths

The last ‘supporting nominations’ from constituency Labour Parties are now in. Not every CLP has chosen to nominate a leadership candidate; but, among the 390 (61%) that have, the breakdown is:

Corbyn 39.0%
Burnham 28.5%
Cooper 27.9%
Kendall  4.6%

This is almost the last solid evidence about the state of the race that we shall get before the results are actually announced. There will presumably be opinion polls; but opinion polling faces some very grave methodological questions following its failure to predict the results of the general election and the Greek referendum (a matter to which I hope to return elsewhere), and this is anyway a difficult election to poll: not everybody who will sign up as a party member or registered supporter has yet done so, and in fact the electorate will only definitively come into existence two days before the ballot papers are sent out. We would be unwise, therefore, to put much faith in poll returns.

How reliable are the CLP nominations, though, as a guide to how Labour Party members will vote? And, if they are reliable, what do they tell us? Which candidate do they suggest is likeliest to win?

This election is being fought under a new set of rules: but, even so, the best way to interpret the CLP nominations is on the basis of a comparison with earlier contests. The previous rules were in fact only put into effect twice: in 1994 and in 2010. (The election of 2007 was uncontested; elections before the introduction of ‘one member, one vote’ in 1993 do not provide relevant comparative data.) Of the two, 2010 is more helpful to us than 1994: (1) because it was more tightly contested, (2) because it happened more recently, and (3) because the number of CLPs giving nominations was larger—396, pretty much the same as this year’s figure, compared to only 109 in 1994. (Perhaps in 1994 fewer CLPs fully appreciated the role of their nominations under ‘one member, one vote’.) Nonetheless, it is instructive to look at both sets of results, comparing each candidate’s share of CLP nominations with their share of Labour Party members’ first-preference votes in the actual election. (These votes were then combined with those of MPs, MEPs, trades unions, and socialist societies, to form an ‘electoral college’ under rules that are no longer in force.)

In 1994, there were three candidates: Margaret Beckett, Tony Blair, and John Prescott.

Candidate CLPs Votes
Blair 53.2% 58.2%
Prescott 35.8% 24.4%
Beckett 11.0% 17.4%

In 2010, meanwhile, there were five: Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, David Miliband, and Ed Miliband.

Candidate CLPs Votes
D. Miliband 41.5% 44.1%
E. Miliband 37.9% 29.9%
Burnham 11.3%   8.5%
Abbott 5.0%   7.3%
Balls 4.3% 10.1%

The first thing we see from examining these numbers is that the CLP nominations did provide at least a rough guide, on both occasions, as to how Labour Party members would end up voting. The largest discrepancy anywhere is the 11.4-point gap between John Prescott’s CLPs and votes; and the mean discrepancy is 5.7 points (worse than the margin of error opinion polls claim—but better than they sometimes achieve). It is therefore moderately likely, although far from certain, that the share of first-preference votes cast for each candidate will be in the following ranges:

Corbyn 33.3% – 44.7%
Burnham 22.8% – 34.2%
Cooper 22.2% – 33.6%
Kendall   0.0% – 10.3%

And it is more likely, although still not certain, that they will be within the wider ranges:

Corbyn 27.6% – 50.4%
Burnham 17.1% – 39.9%
Cooper 16.5% – 39.3%
Kendall   0.0% – 16.0%

We can therefore take it as established that Liz Kendall is not competitive. Even on the most optimistic reading of her chances, the best she can look forward to is an unexpectedly strong last place. Any of the other three, however, can in principle still win from this position. But can we deduce anything further from the CLP numbers? In particular, is there any reasonable basis for deciding which candidates’ support is likely to be understated by these figures—and which overstated?

If we look back at the 1994 and 2010 CLP nominations, we notice that both sets modestly understate the support that the front runner would eventually receive (by five points in 1994 and 2.6 points in 2010), and significantly exaggerate the support for the candidate placed second (by 11.4 points in 1994 and eight points in 2010). They also tend to understate the support for candidates in third and subsequent places; although Burnham bucked this trend in 2010 by doing rather worse in first preferences than he had in CLP nominations. Is there a plausible mechanism, other than chance fluctuations in a small sample, that would lead to this pattern emerging? I think there is. In both 1994 and 2010, the front runner (Tony Blair, David Miliband) was seen as offering a politically distinct ‘Blairite’ message, while the second- and third-placed candidates (Prescott/Beckett, Ed Miliband/Ed Balls) were more ‘centrist’. And—crucially—CLP nominations are not decided on first preferences alone. It seems very likely that supporters of Beckett or of Balls transferred their backing to Prescott or to Ed Miliband, at CLP nomination meetings, once their favourite candidate had been eliminated—thereby depriving Blair or David Miliband of nominations from some CLPs where the front runner had been ahead in the first round. In the first-preference votes cast during the actual election, however, these supporters reappeared: Beckett and Balls did substantially better than the CLP nominations had suggested, and Prescott and Ed Miliband did worse.

This time, once again, there is a front runner who stands for a clearly marked change (albeit to the left rather than the right), and there are other candidates who are comparatively ‘centrist’ and comparatively interchangeable. The pattern differs somewhat from 1994 and 2010, in that it is not clear which candidate is in second place: neither Burnham nor Cooper has succeeded in becoming the obvious ‘no change’ candidate. It is therefore likely that both of them have benefited somewhat from transfers (whether Burnham-Cooper, Cooper-Burnham, Kendall-Cooper, or Kendall-Burnham). So the CLP nominations probably overstate support for Burnham and Cooper, and understate it for Corbyn and Kendall; although the error is likely to be quite moderate. As a ‘best guess’, we can say the CLP nominations point to a first-preference vote something like:

Corbyn 42%
Burnham 24%
Cooper 24%
Kendall  10%

If those were indeed the results in the first round, who would actually win? How would the second and third preferences be allocated? The best evidence (although it is not very good evidence) as to second preferences comes from a survey of readers of LabourList www.labourlist.org/2015/07/jeremy-corbyn-comes-first-among-labourlist-readers. If we accept those figures and make some additional (reasonable but rather Corbyn-pessimistic) assumptions, we can create a model that will allow us to predict the final result based on an estimate of first preferences. And if we then feed the 42-24-24-10 ‘best guess’ into the model, it comes up with a final result that looks like:

Corbyn 50.1%
Cooper 49.9%

It would clearly be absurd to offer that as a prediction. When we have been casually throwing around errors of five to ten percent, we cannot very well claim to call the election down to a victory margin of maybe 500 votes. And it would be quite possible to juggle the figures and come up with plausible assumptions that led to a narrow Cooper win or a narrow Burnham win. What is much harder is to find a halfway plausible scenario under which the final round is other than very close. As clearly as we can make it out, based on the CLP nominations, this leadership election is a dead heat. Corbyn is almost certain to win the first round; but the actual result is on a knife edge.

Or it would be, if it were only Labour Party members voting (as it is at CLP nomination meetings). Given that party members seem to be divided basically fifty-fifty, in the final runoff, between Corbyn and either Cooper or Burnham, the votes of registered supporters and affiliate members will become decisive. If large numbers of people sign up to vote, and Corbyn wins among them by a big margin, then his chance of winning overall is very good; if only a few sign up, or if those who do sign up are no more likely to back Corbyn than party members are, then the election is looking much, much too close to call.

Edmund Griffiths is the author of ‘Towards a Science of Belief Systems’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).


Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader – take the 20:20 challenge

Today, Jeremy’s campaign launched the 20:20 challenge. The details are on the campaign Facebook page. If you support the campaign, please visit the page and share. This is what it says:

Today we’re launching a new challenge for the ‪#‎jeremy4leader‬ campaign. we’re calling it the 20:20 Challenge.

Day 1 of 20

Now, we all know the success we’ve had with our online campaigning. It’s the talk of the election campaign. But we also recognise that it will come to very little unless we can turn this social media presence into actual voters and real votes. So today, we’re setting every one of our supporters a challenge which could well ensure that we win this leadership election, and in so doing, change politics in this country for a generation.

What we are asking is that everyone tries to recruit one member or supporter to the Labour Party each day for 20 days – by the 12th of August (the deadline for registration in this election). Ask your partners, your parents and grandparents, your brothers and sisters, your work colleagues, fellow students and union comrades. Make sure they know how to register:

Either by:

1. Becoming a full member (check out discounted rates for students and others):


2. Becoming a ‘supporter’ by texting ‘support’ to 78555 (texts costs £3) or online here:


(this is also the case if you are a member of a union which is not affiliated to the Labour Party)

3. Registering as a member of an affiliated union (free if a member of an affiliated union – see list here: http://www.labour.org.uk/pages/trade-union-and-labour-party-liaison-organisation-tulo):

http://support.labour.org.uk/ (choose member of affiliated organisation option)

Please note, for all types of membership, you will need to agree to the statement:

“I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.”

The deadline to register: August 12th (but do it now!)

Spread the word and report your stories and successes on the campaign page.

Interesting interpretation of events

Andy Burnham’s take on the government’s Welfare Reform Bill debate last night, in which he ABSTAINED

Tonight I voted for a Labour motion to oppose the Tories’ Welfare Reform Bill.

It was a motion I had been calling for, because I have been clear all along – we cannot simply abstain on a Bill that will penalise working families and increase child poverty.

That’s why last week I took a stand against the Tories’ assault on working families, children and disabled people – and I make no apology for that.

The Tory tax-credit cuts I spoke out against will hit working families who are doing the right thing. They will actually discourage people from being in work.

Children will be hit particularly badly. Many of the measures in this Bill will have the effect of increasing child poverty.

And at the same time as David Cameron is penalising working families, he is choosing to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on an inheritance tax cut for the richest estates.

It speaks volumes about where his priorities really lie.

But whilst we may have lost the vote tonight, that doesn’t mean the battle has to be over.

Tonight I am firing the starting gun on Labour’s opposition to this Bill. If I am elected leader in September, I am determined that Labour will fight this regressive Bill word by word, line by line.

I am clear that if the Government do not make major changes to protect working families, children and the disabled, then, under my Leadership, Labour will oppose this Bill with everything we’ve got when it comes back before MPs later this year.


Only Jeremy Corbyn can beat the Tories in 2020

Of course, it is impossible to predict the future with certainty so that’s a slight exaggeration. For instance, the Conservatives are divided over the European Union with a referendum coming up. It is at least possible that the Conservatives could turn on each other. If that were to happen, Labour would have some chance of winning in 2020, whoever the leader is.

However, if a Tory implosion doesn’t happen, only one of the four candidates in the leadership race would have any realistic hope of leading Labour to victory.

Clearly Kendall is completely unelectable. There would be no reason for voters to vote for Tory policies from Labour when they can vote for the real thing. However, the question supporters of Burnham and Cooper must consider is this: in what possible way would Johnson versus Burnham or Johnson versus Cooper not be a re-run of the 2015 election, the only differences being that the Conservatives would have a more credible candidate than last time and Labour a less credible one? Remember Andy Burnham was crushingly defeated by Ed Miliband in the 2010 leadership election. Can you really imagine the Tories quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing him?

Corbyn, on the other hand, would be a different proposition. Let’s look at some facts. On the day Labour lost power in 2010, this is a list of what happened to Labour’s share of the vote in the constituencies in which the four current leadership candidates were standing:

BURNHAM: Labour’s share DOWN by 15.3%

COOPER: Labour’s share DOWN by 17.1% (although the situation was possibly distorted by constituency changes)

KENDALL: Labour’s share DOWN by 12.4%

CORBYN: Labour’s share UP by 3.3%

In other words, while Labour was having a disastrous night all around the country, Jeremy Corbyn’s share of the vote was going up. If that had been replicated by other Labour candidates across the country, Labour would have won the 2010 election with an increased majority.

In the current leadership race he was presented as the 100/1 outsider last month but is now a real contender.

Don’t be fooled by the vitriolic coverage of his campaign in the media. Modest he may be, but Jeremy Corbyn can win the 2020 election for Labour.

Ten reasons to support Corbyn

We all need to support Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for leadership of the Labour Party and to campaign for him to win. Here are ten reasons why:

1. It presents us with a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about a dramatic change in the depressing landscape of British parliamentary politics.

2. Many people don’t buy into the agenda of austerity at home and non-stop war abroad. Their views are presented as fringe and largely excluded from mainstream political debate. Jeremy’s election will instantly give a voice to millions whose opinions are currently ignored.

3. Jeremy is passionate about tackling poverty.

4. Jeremy does not accept the fraudulent claim, often presented as self-evident, that austerity is the solution to economic problems.

5. Jeremy has always been opposed to Britain’s involvement in overseas wars – which have destroyed whole countries, caused untold misery, suffering, and death, and produced a huge increase in terrorism.

6. Jeremy’s modesty and personal integrity have been demonstrated throughout his political career. He has always said it’s not about him as an individual but about the movement as a whole. Since he became an MP in 1983, he has never chased Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet positions, or put himself forward for leader or deputy leader.

7. Regardless of policies, if you seriously want Labour to win the 2020 election, Jeremy is the only candidate who is even remotely likely to give the Conservative Party a run for its money. He has both charm and gravitas. An inferior version of Miliband or Brown would have no hope.

8. Jeremy is the only one of the four who says what he honestly thinks. The others always say what they think voters want to hear – as decided by spin doctors and focus groups – and so sound unconvincing.

9. This is illustrated by the 2010 general election, in which Labour lost power. Burnham, Cooper, and Kendall reduced Labour’s share of the vote in their respective constituencies by 15.3%, 17.1%, and 12.4% respectively. This was in line with the national trend. Corbyn, however, increased Labour’s share in his constituency by 3.3%! Of course, if this had been replicated across the country, Labour would have won.

10. The so called Tories for Corbyn campaign – calling on Conservative supporters to sign up and vote for Corbyn to destroy the Labour Party forever – is a media stunt whose purpose is to discredit Jeremy and encourage Labour Party members and supporters not to vote for him. If they seriously believe it they should consider this: some right wing Labour MPs also wanted Jeremy on the ballot so his risible vote would shut the Left up forever. Instead, they are going into panic mode as a groundswell of opinion gets behind Jeremy. This is because people find themselves attracted to Jeremy and what he represents. Who is to say that couldn’t happen in a general election?